Article: Taking Sides

Kathleen O'Hare News

In the past week, Northern Ireland has witnessed public figures addressing the renewed conflict in the Middle East from their own personal standpoints. The sight of Israeli and Palestinian flags flying, representing deeply held alliances of the heart, has brought a crucial issue to the forefront. It is almost like a continuation of our conflict by proxy and a war of words. Conversations and debates like these are where conflict begins. Amid emotionally charged debates around the world and countries siding with either Palestine or Israel, Pope Francis extended an invitation to both parties, urging restraint and a search for a solution to the war that has plagued the Middle East for decades.

In looking at the question of how wars happen, it is not an overnight phenomenon. It’s a result of years of accumulated hatred, mistrust, and unconscious bias. Terrorism and extremism, as Pope Francis wisely noted, do not pave the way to a solution but rather fuel the flames of hatred, violence, and revenge. Such actions only bring suffering to both sides involved. In light of this, the Pope concluded his plea for peace in the Middle East with a call for fraternity and dialogue, emphasising that the region “does not need war but peace—a peace founded on justice, dialogue, and the courage to embrace fraternity”.

The Israel-Palestine question is complex. Reducing it to a simplistic “Israelis-bad and Palestinians-good” viewpoint, or vice versa, is not only inaccurate but also unproductive. The reality is that this conflict is deeply rooted in history, politics, religion, and human suffering. Taking sides without a nuanced understanding of the situation only hinders the resolution process. We should know the dangers of this.

Here in Northern Ireland, we are all too familiar with the devastating consequences of taking sides. Despite years of conflict, we have managed to achieve a fragile yet hopefully lasting peace. It is essential not to take this peace for granted. As Patrick Kielty, host of the RTE, Late Late Show, remarked last Friday night, “we are living our own miracle” in Ireland, where peace prevails”. In a message to all those affected by the Israel-Palestine conflict, he expressed the hope that a similar miracle could one day bring tranquillity to that troubled region. Viewers could clearly see the pain he was still carrying from losing his Father in the ‘Troubles ‘.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, along with his fellow Archbishops from other churches, Dermot Farrell, Kieran O’Reilly, and Francis Duffy, issued a joint statement expressing their deep concern for the ongoing events in the Holy Land, the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

“The continuous situation has inflicted great suffering on innocent people from all sides of the conflict. The loss of innocent lives, coupled with the large number of people injured, serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for a lasting peace in the region”.

Ireland’s Archbishops

The message conveyed by these spiritual leaders reminds us that it’s not a matter of taking sides, but rather embracing a holistic approach that seeks to address the root causes of the Israel-Palestine conflict and work towards a just and lasting solution.

In Northern Ireland, we have learned the hard way that taking sides only perpetuates violence and suffering. The transformation from a conflict-ridden society to one that experiences peace, even if it’s fragile, required a shift in mindset. It demanded an understanding that peace is not the result of one side’s victory over another but an outcome of compromise, dialogue, and the recognition of the shared humanity that unites us all.

As the world watches the Middle East, let us remember that the causes are multifaceted with deep historical roots and human consequences. Rather than taking sides, our role should be to support initiatives that promote peace talks, just as we have done in Northern Ireland.

In conclusion, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East serves as a stark reminder of the need for an empathetic approach to resolving complex issues. The voices of spiritual leaders like Pope Francis and Archbishop Eamon Martin urge us to move beyond taking sides and work towards a future where peace and justice prevail, and where the suffering of innocent people can be alleviated. It is a call to embrace fraternity and dialogue, essential ingredients for a peaceful world and to remember above all, Peace begins in our own hearts.